Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for bestselling author Leigh Bardugo‘s debut- and eagerly anticipated!- adult fantasy novel, Ninth House. Read on for my thoughts on the novel, and please be sure to take a look at the postcard at the bottom of the post and check out the rest of the participating bloggers.
Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bargudo
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 8, 2019 by Flatiron Books
The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.
Galaxy Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
Leigh Bardugo, New York Times bestselling author of the tremendously popular young adult titles the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Bones duology, as well as King of Scars, debuts on the adult fiction scene with the intricate and unputdownable fantasy Ninth House.
Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern, is beginning her college life at Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut. A life that has already been filled with tragedy, violence, abuse, and horrors, Alex has also lived through a gruesome crime scene in which she was- somehow, miraculously- the sole survivor. As she begins classes at Yale, some parts of her life seem to be on track: she’s attending college at an incredibly lauded university and she has a group of pretty solid roommates. However, Alex Stern is there at Yale only through her connections to Dean Sandow and House of Lethe: Alex has been recruited to Lethe as a ‘shepherd’ to monitor and oversee that the occult activities of the shrouded-in-secrecy eight tombs (houses) of Yale follow protocol. Alex Stern, you see, is invaluable to Lethe, Dean Sandow and Yale’s secret societies: she can see, communicate with, and connect with the dead (called Grays). Alex Stern has powers she is just beginning to recognize and appreciate; vast and strong capabilities of influencing and working with the dead and their ghosts. Under the tutorship of fellow Lethe members Darlington and Pamela Dawes, Alex finds herself inextricably tied to even more disturbing and shocking turns than she could have ever imagined following the death of a Yale student that appears darkly connected to unacceptable activities coming from the tombs. Complex, taking place in a world both real and potently magical that only grows more detailed and finely tuned as the novel goes one- and speaking to subjects such as violence against women, abuse, and gross imbalances of power- Ninth House is brutal, shocking, and violent… and deeply fascinating reading. Alex Stern is quite a surprise lead protagonist, forbidding, unpretentious, coarse, and unbelievably strong, with readers discovering more of Alex’s life story (including some deeply traumatic reveals) as Ninth House carries on. Ninth House is also served well by a strong surrounding cast of characters including Darlington, Dawes, and a detective serving as liaison between Lethe and the Chief of Police named Abel Turner.
Overall, Ninth House is an intense, utterly transfixing, and often harrowing fantasy novel. Readers familiar with Leigh Bardugo’s skill for detailed and mesmerizing world building, and memorable main characters will have much to appreciate with the macabre and grim adult world of Alex Stern and Ninth House. As a reader relatively new to Bardugo’s writing as well as fantasy novels, I found Ninth House absolutely thrilling- deeply compelling- from beginning to end. Ending on a well-done stunner of a hook, Ninth House is listed as the first book in the Alex Stern series, so readers can look forward to more Galaxy Stern to come.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.